Shauna Barbosa: And that's as far as I got.
[Leaning forward watching him read my poetry. I take my phone back. Then he plays A Life in The Day of Benjamin.]
Kendrick Lamar: One day Andre 3000 said to me,
we're all just human beings looking for something to do.
Say you never reach your goals, the status quo that you would like to reach — would that define your happiness?
SB: Five, six years ago, I would have said yes. Success for me is being mentally well. Being emotionally and mentally stable is successful to me. I can put out books or not put out books, but if I have this self-image and love, that’s — this sounds super cliché. But a lot of shit is impossible when you’re trapped in you’re own head. Once you’re institutionalized within, success is breaking out of that.
Kendrick: Your birthday is a day after mine. We may have some of the same likes and dislikes. Do you or have you ever had a fear of failure? If so, how present is that today?
SB: It’s present so much lately; it keeps me from actually doing things, from creating. Since I was young I was always viewed as someone that would make it. There were a lot of expectations of me from a really young age. I feel like, I’m about to turn 25, what have I done?
Kendrick: Do you feel like you've accomplished a lot?
SB: If I’m being nice to myself, yes. But I really want to say no, there’s so much more that I can be doing or could have done.
Kendrick: As a friend, I would say that you have a lot going for yourself. A lot of people don’t have the ambition to work with inmates and kids at 25. People think about doing these things when they’re older, in their late 30s. When they feel like they have to give back to their community. That’s a lot of responsibility. Ok?
Kendrick: Are you attracted to writers? Not in an intimate way, but your friends.
SB: Having a friend who understands what you do, someone you can talk to about art, writing, and creating, really means a lot. It’s one of those things you don’t think about until you feel it. I want that in friendships. I want to talk about ideas, to be around each other when they come to life.
Kendrick: What's your take on rappers?
SB: In what way?
Kendrick: How do you feel about their ability to come up with words?
SB: It's impressive.
Kendrick: You think it's impressive?
I've always wanted to be a rapper.
It’s gotten harder, as I’ve grown, you know, being a woman and loving rap. That doesn’t take away from the talent. It takes a lot of talent, hard work and balls to write something and share it with the world.
Kendrick: Do you feel like it's a God given talent?
SB: For the special ones.
Kendrick: Anybody can rap. But there are few who have a special gift from God. I feel like I have it. When people ask me how do I come up with these things, I tell them it’s beyond me.
SB: When I write and it’s really good, I think, how am I going to do this again?
How can I make someone feel something again?
Kendrick: I used to say that to myself. Like with Section 80. I was like, I have to come up with an album now!? It not only exceeded the expectations of other people, but mine as well.
As an artist you know what's right and you know what's wrong.
Kendrick: Where do you want to be in 10 years?
SB: I would like to be married with children.
Kendrick: You like kids?
SB: No. I want to be creating. I don’t know where I’ll be. I want to still work with kids and teach. But I may pick up something else, and be into something different.
Kendrick: I’ve always wanted to ask that question because people ask me that all the time. And I usually say I don’t know. I’m going to start saying something else. You just inspired this; I’m going to say…I want to be in a space where I'm happy about the next challenge. I want to be in the same space I'm in now about creating and challenging myself, but just progressed with something new.
Everything is subject to change.
Kendrick: Are you shy? Are you open?
SB: A bit of both. I tend to be quiet and anti-social.
Kendrick: Who are you?
SB: That's a dumb question.
Kendrick: Ahhhh! Yes, It's not only dumb, but it's fake deep.
SB: If four different journalists ask you that, you're going to give four different answers.
Kendrick: You just gave me another idea; I'm going to start saying I don't know. You don't fully know who you are until the time comes where you're about to die.
SB: Or until someone tells you about yourself. A friend told me about myself and it upset me.
Kendrick: What'd they tell you?
SB: I haven't been good at friendships and relationships in the last couple of years.
Kendrick: When you say you're not good at them — who texts who first?
SB: They'd have to text me first.
Kendrick: Oh, you're that person.
SB: I don't respond or answer calls. I don't keep plans.
Kendrick: You're just like me.
I want to be better. To get out of my own head. I’m at a place where I’m making amends.
Kendrick: Do you have trust issues?
SB: I don't really have trust issues with my friends.
Kendrick: Well, I know they’re rushing me right now. They’re telling me my 20 minutes with you are up. Can I get one more question? Is that your manager? He’s a really nice guy. My last question to Ms. Barbosa would be…
Kendrick: How confident are you about your writing? Or how insecure? As an artist, we’re very sensitive about what we create. I’m very sensitive about my music. I will sit all day and critique one thing that’s in my head. There are little things on my album that the world would never hear because they don’t have the same type of ear. If the engineer moves that one key word out, I’ll be able to tell in my sleep. With me, I don’t know if that plays a part in my
confidence or my insecurities.So I wanted to ask you, are you more confident or more insecure? This has to do with everything. How people react to it, comment on it, the negative and the positive. How much does that affect you?
SB: I've had my website for like seven years. Back then, when I was posting my work online consistently. I was super confident. I would go to parties in New York and editors would ask when I was I going to write for their magazines. I never followed up.
I was so confident in my own shit, my own space.Everything I put out, people loved it, and they ate it up. I don't necessarily feel the same way now. I hardly post on the site these days.
SB: My writing has changed. As an artist, when you change…I don’t know if this is the same way for you. I used to write a lot of flash fiction and vignettes, there was an intense, crazy section on there, called Allure. Then I started just writing poetry. Poetry is such a complex thing for some people. I don’t know if a lot of people who follow my work still get it, or get me. That does make me feel uncomfortable.
Kendrick: I totally get it. Two weeks before my album came out, I had this real nervous feeling. Well, this real antsy feeling. I was questioning myself. Will people understand it? Was I too complex?
I had this little man in the back of my brain that was kind of skeptical on what was about to come out.At this point the album is packaged and ready to go, it's out of my hands, I can't pull it back. It was a real intense moment. I remember being on the bus early in the morning when I got a call from Pharrell. Even though he did a song on the album, it was his first time hearing it. He was just like, Man, you made one of the most incredible bodies of work in the last ten years. I said, are you serious? I’m going to be 100% real with you P; I’ve kind of doubted myself about what I’m doing. And he said don’t ever do that again..
Whatever you're doing, always follow that little man in Kendrick's head that made you initially do it, because that's what separates you from everybody else.Don't worry about if they don't understand it. You know you challenged yourself and if the right person hears it, even if it's only one person that hears it and understands it, it'll be better than anything else. I'm saying that to tell you; what you're doing is unique. Do not compromise. Because once the right person hears it…
SB: It's not music.
Kendrick: No, it doesn't have to be.
Don't worry about the concept of time.It took
for Dre to hear me. Before that I had no concept of time because I really loved what I was doing and I felt like I was the best at doing it. I felt like I was better than everybody around me. That gave me the fuel to keep doing music, because one day I know that it will touch that stage and I'll be out there. I feel that you feel like you're the best. I feel like you feel you're better than everybody. Yep. I know. I know you do. The way I feel now is the way I felt when I was 16. I felt like I was the best at what I do. It finally came about. Whether it took 10 years or 10 more years, I knew I was going to get that feeling at least once. The concept of time — that's what this small segment is about. I think you're manager is going to kill me.
SB: We can keep going. Before Section 80 did other people's success make you insecure?
Kendrick. Yep. Black Boy Fly that's on the deluxe version of my album was about me watching the Game, who's from my neighborhood. Watching his success gave me a sense of jealously. I thought he might be the last one to make it.
We may not see another kid from Comptonfor another fifteen years. That's a good question. Is there anything more you want to say, anything I need to know about you?
SB: I hate cilantro.
Kendrick: Thank you, great interview.